Joyland By Stephen King: Book Review

Joyland By Stephen King: Book Review

Ray Bradbury. Dan Simmons. Stephen King. These three names are the writers I’ve found I can always depend. Not only completely transport me to a different time or place with their craft, but continuously give the gift of remembrance of ones childhood or young adulthood while reading their stories. I know what it feels like to be Jim Nightshade from Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I can smell the fields and hidden underbrush that the Bike Patrol play in with Simmon’s Summer of Night. And now I know Joyland.

Thanks to King’s new book, I feel as if I personally am an acquaintance of Devin Jones, the heartbroken young man who find employment at the Joyland amusement park during the Summer and Fall of 1973. I may not have worked at an amusement park but I was blessed enough to work a very long time at a movie theater and just like Joyland our job was to “Sell Fun!”.

Stephen King is of course known all over the world and mostly for his work in Horror literature but he has also dabbled with mystery thanks to the Hard Case Crime book series, his first being the Colorado Kid (Which was later loosely ‘adapted’ into the SyFy series Haven). While the story is set in the world we are familiar with, this is still King and there are a few brushes with the supernatural within the story.

No Vampires or Werewolves and no beams connected to the Dark Tower or anything like that but there is certainly a murderer and his victim. A sad apparition of a beautiful young woman that some claim haunts the very place she was slain, the Horror House. There is also a touch of the psychic with two of the characters in the story. But to be fair that isn’t really what the book is about at all.

Joyland is about being young. About that wonderful time after looking back many years later and realizing you were stupid. It’s about the days of learning of not only yourself but the world around you, it’s about love and friendship and death. The book is an emotional wallop but the good kind, the Sun shining after a storm type of story.

That tale is wrapped around the compelling location of Joyland, an amusement park that has its roots with the sometimes vilified Carny. The book does a remarkable job of making working at such a park seem to not only be one of the most grueling places of employment but also one that offers an abundance of personal gratification and the opportunity it would seem to be a ‘hero’.

King’s greatest gift to readers in this particular book is that of nostalgia (Isn’t that what we try to do here on the Retroist everyday?). I may never have been to a place 100% like Joyland but I can recall visiting a similar place in my youth, a family amusement park that has long been torn down and while I was reading I could hear the sounds of that long ago place and smell the cotton candy mixed with a Summer breeze. I’m pretty sure everyone will receive a similar stirring of memories like mine once they do themselves the favor of picking up this book.

Joyland will be available for purchase starting tomorrow, June 4th. In fact you can pre-order it right now at Amazon.Com. This really is one of Stephen King’s greatest books and I just don’t think I can recommend Joyland enough!

About Hard Case Crime

Make sure to visit the Hard Case Crime link up above if you are a fan of hard-boiled crime ficiton, they have works from the likes of Max Allan Collins, Harlan Ellison, Donald E. Westlake, and Mickey Spillane to name just a few authors. Charles Ardai and Max Phillips are doing something wonderful with the Hard Case Crime book series, they are helping to bring back the Pulp novel.

As it states on their site: “Hard Case Crime is dedicated to reviving the vigor and excitement, the suspense and thrills—the sheer entertainment—of the golden age of paperback crime novels. Both by bringing back into print the best work of the pulp era and by introducing readers to new work by some of today’s most powerful writers and artists. Determined detectives and dangerous women, fortune hunters and vengeance seekers, ingenious criminals and men on the run. Hard Case Crime novels offer everything you want from a great story, all in handsome and affordable editions.”


Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. This is on my list of “to read” this summer. I’ve been looking forward to it. Anything set at a carnival has me hooked. They make great atmosphere.

  2. Ordered my copy and cannot wait to read it.

    You think this has SyFy or maybe Chiller mini-series potential?

  3. I’m sure I’ll like this, it being Stephen King book and all. But I won’t enjoy it as much as you seem to. You say you’d be able to imagine the sights and smells of the place you used to go. I’ve never been to a Joyland type of place.

  4. I heard King interviewed last week about the book and he seemed to point to traveling Carnivals as a huge inspiration for Joyland.

  5. I can see why a traveling carnival would be inspiration for any story. The visuals alone are worth writing about.

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